Thursday, June 30, 2011

Got Class? Thanks, Charles

"Shut the fuck up!" I shouted into their soft, pasty-white teenage/twenty-something faces.

The whole theatre turned to look at the commotion.  There I stood in the middle of about a hundred and fifty people, face red with rage, yelling at these two pricks.  I gave them my best approximation of The Look that was supposed to show that I meant business.  That I was ready -and more importantly, willing- to start some shit.  I thought that through sheer will alone I could overpower this pair of idiots.

I was wrong.

They laughed.  Told me to shut the fuck up and sit back down.  Gave me the finger.  Threw their popcorn in my face.  Before those golden clusters had time to bounce off my face and reach the ground I had already hopped over my the back of my theatre seat and right on top of these assholes.  Tactically I may have had the upper ground, though I wasn't sure if Ryebone and my brother-in-law had followed me into the fray or not.  It was too late now anyway.

It was satisfying the see the smug little smiles wiped from their soft, pink faces replaced by terror.  One of them tried to escape, but I grabbed him by his shirt collar and reeled him back in.  Fight or flight.  Flight had failed, so he took a big, clumsy swing at me.  Who the fuck do you think you are?  Wolverine?  I easily brushed aside his pathetic attack and responded in kind.  Jab.  Liver.  Cross.  Right over the edge and into the next row of seats.  Patrons scattering like ants.

The other geek -seeing his friend in serious trouble- grabs me around the neck in some kind of vain attempt to put me into a choke hold like the kind he'd undoubtedly seen on TV.  Pathetic.  As I turn around I bring my elbow up, striking him in the face.  Hard.  He reels backwards, and I notice how his glasses somehow stay on.  He lands hard half on the seats, half on the floor and immediately I'm on top of him with my hands around his throat.  And it feels so fucking good when I squeeze.  The fall took the wind out of him and I think his shoulder is out of joint so he doesn't put up much of a fight.  He flops around like dying fish trying to get back to water.  His eyes are bloodshot now and seem to be popping out of his head.  He stares up at me with some vain hope in his eyes, like if he concentrates really hard he can shoot a blast of optic energy at me like Cyclops.  No such luck, hombre.

I squeeze even harder and I can feel my thumbs digging deeper into his trachea and his lips are a strange shade of blue now and all I can think is His fucking glasses are still on? How is that possible?  His eyes are rolling back in his head  and I hear myself saying something like:

"Maybe next time you won't talk through the whole movie, you fucking douche bag!"

And it feels so satisfying.

Unfortunately (for me) it didn't go down like that at all.  Instead I sat through X-MEN: FIRST CLASS seething, choking back my rage while the two morons behind us delivered their running commentary through the whole fucking movie.  And not even whispering either.  It was regular conversation volume.

What a piss-off.

Then there was the group of kids sitting at five o'clock about halfway back in the theatre with their own special kind of annoyance.  Overall it was one of the worst movie-going experiences I've ever had despite the latest X-MEN flick being a decent movie.  After reading the beginning of this article you might be asking yourself several things:

1) Why do I seem like such and angry, violent person?
2) Why didn't I turn around an say something to these assholes who talked through an entire movie?
3) Am I some kind of pussy? (a corollary to 2)
4) Would anybody else in the theatre have actually testified against me had I followed through with my violent fantasy?

Well first off, no I'm not really that angry of a person.  But sometimes The Rage builds up inside me and one way of dealing with my rage is through violent fantasies usually involving my perceived wrongdoer.  I assume this a natural way of dealing with my anger without actually walking around punching people in the face which would be counterproductive and also really hard on my knuckles.

Secondly I didn't turn around to confront these knob gobblers for two (what I assume are) very good reasons.  Or at least valid reasons.  The first reason is because no matter how the scenario played out in my head, no matter what I would have said or done to the commentators, I could only foresee the situation escalating to a point I wasn't willing to go to.  And the second reason was because if I had turned around my Rage was at the point where I almost certainly would have precipitated an escalation (see: the first line of this article).  And anyway we're socially programmed to avoid confrontation, which was probably a good instinct in this case.  I've never actually witnessed a movie theatre "incident" so I have no idea if it is ever possible to diffuse a situation with assholes of this calibre.  If you have then kudos to you and I'd like to hear your insight on the situation.

Thirdly, I might be some kind of pussy.  I don't know.  (If you lick me, do I taste like fish?  (I've never actually thought pussy tasted like fish, but that's the cultural reference people tend to understand.))  Sometimes I get this clear vision of what needs to be done and the corresponding burst of will to do it, and sometimes I feel constrained by the power of my social programming to just shut the fuck up and ignore shit.  Just blend in.  Another space monkey.  It tends to be easier not to enter into a confrontation, because if you do you might have to follow through.  Honestly, I didn't think asking a couple of guys to shut the fuck up while I watched the movie was worth A) Potentially having the tables turned on me and getting caught up in their shit and maybe getting kicked out of the theatre along with them or B) Potentially entering an escalating conflict which culminated with me having to lay the beatdown on a couple of ubernerds.

Fourthly I can only speak to my own personal feelings about the matter, but if a couple of assholes who were making my night shittier by the minute were subsequently confronted and beaten to bloody pulps, not only would I not testify in a court of law against said Hero, but I would also build a shrine to him and pray to it semi-annually from now until the time I forgot.  I can't think of anyone who would side with the douche bags except other douche bags who, sadly, have multiplied like rats over the past couple of years and have now become one of North America's leading house pests.

It was unfortunate that my viewing of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was sullied by such douche baggery as Matthew Vaughn did a really good job with this film.  I'm torn about Vaughn because the same guy who gave us the underrated (?) yet totally awesome LAYER CAKE also delivered the stinking heap that was KICK-ASS (and before I get any responses outlining all the reasons KICK-ASS did indeed kick ass, let me break it to you: the movie sucked).  Plus with poor showings like the even stinkier and best-forgotten heap of shit X3 and the only slightly better X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE I did not have high hopes despite Ryebone's willingness to bet his collection of celebrity urine that I would indeed "love the bitch."

In my mind Vaughn has more than made up for KICK-ASS.  FIRST CLASS is an excellent addition to the X-Men movie mythology (a point of order for hardcore comic book geeks) and a solid stand alone movie in and of itself.  Now for me this movie wasn't quite as good as Bryan Singer's first two X-Films, but still a movie I would actually consider purchasing.

I won't bore you with the plot, but if you've seen the trailers and/or been on the Internet in the past year you'll pretty much know the basic plot.  The focus is on Charles Xavier (AKA Professor X) and Eric Lehnsherr (AKA Magneto) and how they became frenemies, and how the original X-Men came to be formed and then mixed up in some key events in the Cold War way back in 1960-something.  All that's not really important, because you can go and watch the fucking thing yourself so you don't need me to regurgitate the thing for you.  Needless to say the plot is smart and cohesive and "makes sense" in the colloquial sense.

One of the main threads that ran through the movie that I thought was interesting was Eric Lehnsherr's back story which picks up with the first scene of 2000's X-MEN in which he's a young man in a Nazi concentration camp separated from his parents and doing funky shit with metal.  Almost immediately after this he meets none other than... Kevin Bacon, who for some reason still feels weird to see in a movie like this.  Don't get me wrong, he did a great job, it just doesn't seem like his kind of vibe.  Of course this played right into Ryebone's (sometimes frightening) obsession with that game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon which was popular back when I was still in high school and which to this day Ryebone takes so seriously he still refers to it as a "contact sport."  After the movie was over he looked at me and in all seriousness told me that a blockbuster movie like this with so many new connections to Kevin Bacon would change the game forever, and to make it more challenging might have to be changed to Four Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and I could tell by the fervour in his eyes that he would brook no dissent on the matter.  His intensity kind of scared me and I wisely deferred to him on all things Bacon-related.

While X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is an X-Men movie that follows a team of mutants trying to save humanity (again for the first time!) the core of the film is really the relationship of pre-Professor X and Magneto, which was surprisingly complex.  The movie really could have been called CHARLES AND ERIC.  A large part was the tighter writing in this installment, and a lot of props also go to the actors -James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender- who brought a lot of pathos to the roles (Charles and Eric respectively).  I don't recall seeing McAvoy in anything before, but he was a pretty solid choice to portray a younger version of the character made famous by Patrick Stewart (do I smell a Star Trek: The Next Generation reboot in the works?).  I guess the balance you have to maintain in the case of a prequel like this is not having the younger version of the character totally the same as his older self, while not being completely different either.  The young Charles Xavier in this movie is just finishing up his doctoral thesis (on mutation, what else?) and although seems a lot more mature for his age (30-ish?) he's also a bit of a womanizer, which is pretty cool.  Mutants need to get laid too, right?  Fassbender did a kick-ass job as young Magneto as well and his character focus in this movie was rage.  It was kind of cool to see the character arc starting to form from Fassbender's pure rage and revenge to Ian McKellan's cold, calculating mission to further the rights of mutants the world over.  I didn't realize until later that I was already a fan of Fassbender's having witnessed his exploits in both 300 and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

One of the coolest things that FIRST CLASS added to the mythology for me was regarding Professor X's powers.  I mean, we already knew he had telepathy, and mind control, and he can make people see what he wants them to see, and in general cloud the minds of men, and maybe even kill someone if he thinks about them too hard. What we never really saw were the personal consequences of using his powers.  In FIRST CLASS there are a couple of really cool scenes were Charles delves into Eric's mind and while he's in there the connection is -at least in part- mutual. When Charles goes through all the shit Eric had to go through what with the Nazi's and the brutal murder of his mother and whatnot, there's actually an emotional connection and he literally feels Eric's pain.  Which kind of makes sense.  I mean, you're melding with somebody else's mind, there must be a line where the distinction between the two minds becomes blurred and... sounds really fucking nerdy, like I'm actually debating the logistics of telepathy like it's actually a real thing.  Oh god, what have I become.

Other major plot points involve a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in a sort of love triangle with Charles and Eric, Beast (Nicholas Hoult) becoming the big blue Beast we all know and love, Emma Frost (January Jones) psychically humping some Russian general and Michael Ironside trying to stop the Cold War from going hot.  We also get to see this mutant called Azazel who -like Nightcrawler- has the ability to teleport, which on the surface doesn't seem that great, but in the context of the X-Men films seems to be one of the coolest powers you could ever want to have.  One of the best action scenes of X-MEN 2 was the first scene where Nightcrawler fucks shit up in the Whitehouse and shows how uber-powerful he really is.  In FIRST CLASS Azazel has not one but two totally awesome action scenes one of which again shows ho a teleporter is just like a one man army.  Fans of either comic books or comic book movies also get rewarded with a lot of cool shit like a prototype 60's-style Cerebro, a bevy of mutants like Havoc and Banshee, and pretty kick-ass X-Men uniforms with a colour-scheme that channels the classic look in the comics.  You get your standard training montage where Charles Xavier (with a little help from Hank McCoy) helps everyone reach his or her full potential.  There's also a cameo by a certain clawed mutant (OK, it's Wolverine) making sure that there will be no X-Men movie ever made that doesn't feature Hugh Jackman.  At the end of the movie you also get to see Fassbender in full Magneto getup which is pretty awesome.

Before I wrap this shit up, I have to make mention of one one of the best and worst parts of the movie.  If you've ever watched Mad Men then you will immediately recognize January Jones in the role of Emma Frost.  Now, in that show I always found Jones kind of... I think "stiff" is the right word.  Unable to emote.  Is there a single word for that?  I think for Mad Men this style works because her character is supposed to be emotionally and sexually repressed and suppressed.  Then I saw Jones in UNKNOWN, and she seemed to be acting (and I use the term "acting" very loosely in her case) exactly the same as she did in Mad Men.  Then I saw her "performance" in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and I finally realized what the problem was: January Jones can't act.  She simply recites her lines mechanically with the exact same inflection every single time, like some kind of script-regurgitating robot with a really nice rack.  Unfortunately for her having nice tits will not help her acting, and unfortunately for audiences having nice tits will undoubtedly help her acting (regurgitating) career so I'm sure we will be forced to endure more of her shit for years to come.  I think Ryebone's take was that she seemed like she was just reading cue cards or something that somebody was holding for her behind the camera, which is really what it seemed like she was doing.

The other (slightly) annoying thing here was trying to populate the movie X-Universe with a back-catalogue of characters.  I mean, I'm not a hardcore comic book reader and most of knowledge about the X-Men comes from that awesome 90's cartoon, so I know the main characters like Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Storm, Rogue, and Gambit.  It just seems like in FIRST CLASS they're scraping the bottom of the barrel.  I mean I kind of knew about Havoc and Banshee, but then there's characters like Darwin, and the weird alternate-Angel.  Then there's the one bad guy -I don't even know what the fuck his name was- but he was basically Tornado Man, and he was pretty much a tool.  Even the main villain Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon.  I wonder if Wendy's has to pay him royalties for using the name Baconator for one of its sandwiches...)  I had to look up.  The problem is they really blew their load in the first two films, went completely fucking insane in the third film, and then they set this movie forty years in the past before most of the other characters from the first movies were even born really painting themselves into a corner.

But anyway.  Although I had to endure an entire feature-length commentary from a couple of douche bags in the third row I was still able to enjoy X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.  And if you liked the other X-Men movies (except X3) then you'll enjoy this one too.  I give X-MEN: FIRST CLASS a 7.5/10 = One Head Slowly Being Lobotomized By A Magnetically Controlled Quarter.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Man VS Sperm

Social responsibility. That was the phrase that passed through my brain as I stood -naked from the waist down- in my bathtub on the evening of May 18, 2011. My kids were both sleeping and my wife was out for the evening which left me plenty of time to get down to business. I had with me everything I thought I would need for that night's Main Event: a mirror, shaving cream, my Gillette Mach 3 razor (with slightly used blade) and my beard trimmer. While to some this might sound like some kind of kinky sex game (there's got to be somebody out there with a shaving fetish) to me it was very serious. After twenty-nine years of gloriously uninterrupted growth I was now in the unenviable (from my point of view) position of having to shave my own balls.  I mean in the grand scale of things it's just shaving a bunch of pubes, but to put into into perspective imagine your body's timeline proportionally to the Earth: shaving my bush would be equivalent to clear cutting a 3.3 billion year old rain forest.  Who knows how many thousands of wondrous, undiscovered species were wiped out in that massacre on that cool, May evening.  Scientists may never know the full environmental impact of my actions that night.

Rewind to five months earlier. I was sitting in a doctor's office waiting for the urologist to come in. I suppose I've been lucky not having spent a lot of time with doctors or waiting in their offices, but perhaps this lack of familiarity is what added to my nervousness. I wasn't nervous about the reason I was there: I was driven by a sense of purpose and clarity I had not experienced in some time. This must be how an alcoholic feels visiting the liquor store in one of his rare moments of semi-sobriety. I wasn't concerned about the content of the visit, but rather the minutia of navigating this unfamiliar social situation.  I always tend to freak myself out by sweating all the details and trying to calculate all the permutations of what could possibly go wrong or go off the preconceived social scripts.

The urologist finally came in, though he did little to ease my anxiety.  He was cool, business-like, and lacked what in my mind would have been considered "bedside manner" in the traditional sense.  The whole appointment couldn't have lasted more than five minutes, roughly forty percent of which involved me standing in the middle of a cold examination room with another man's hand on my cock.  So, I guess aside from the doctor's office a typical Friday night (there, I beat you to it, Adam).  The doc came in and made no attempt at small talk before asking me to unzip.  The whole time I had been waiting in the room I'd been eyeing the table under the assumption that that was where my hairy nutsack would make its appearance.  After years of television shows depicting women visiting their OBGYN's and sitting on a table, their legs in stirrups and their naked lower halves tastefully covered by a medical sheet, I expected the same five star treatment for my man meat.  So I was kind of taken aback when I was unceremoniously ordered to "pull down my pants and underwear."  In the middle of the room.  Standing up.

Well, after suddenly being bumped back from first class to coach I hesitated.  Well, that and the fact that I wasn't used to standing in the middle of a room and exposing my 100% all-beef meat stick for the world to gaze upon in all of it's glory.  Irritated, the urologist repeated his order as if I hadn't understood or was a kid or something (although hopefully he's not out there asking a lot of kids to pull their pants down).  I was kind of insulted, but I wanted to play it cool and not start any shit by saying something like "I heard you the first time, you condescending fuck!  It just takes me a couple seconds to get my fucking belt undone, you slimy sack of fermented shit!"  which might have been a slight overreaction, and not really indicative of my true feelings about the experience.

So I was standing there with my pants around my ankles holding up the bottom of my shirt with another man fondling my John Thomas and his hairy twins having a conversation about my vasectomy.  I remember quite clearly that he inspected both of my balls quite aggressively before informing me of the practicalities of the procedure.  This is where my anxiety over the whole affair really began.  Any information he may have provided me with that day about the medical nuances of the procedure, the recovery, or the success rate was eclipsed by the fact that I would have to shave my Big Lebowski the day before the surgery.  I don't know why this stuck with me, but the thought of having to shave down their conjured up strange feelings of terror.  I was especially concerned with shaving my fuzzy peaches as they seemed a particular challenging obstacle.  I mean, not only is it in a very hard to reach place with zero visibility, but the skin on the testicles is loose and wrinkly and seems like prime fodder for razor-related accidents.  I imagined it like trying to shave a pair of prunes, only softer and filled with blood and semen, without breaking the surface.  Before I had time to voice my (potentially neurotic) concerns the doctor had already finished his exam, described the procedure and confirmed that I did indeed "want the surgery."

After leaving the exam room I checked with the nurse at the front desk to confirm my appointment which ended up being on May 19... a date of no specific importance to anyone unless you're the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn.  I was kind of bummed because I was hoping that I would be able to get my vasectomy sooner so I wouldn't be as worried about spawning a third, unwanted offspring.  That is not to say that the first two were unwanted, because that's simply not the case.  We love the first two.  Two is a good number.  We planned the second birth (if you can call a buying a case of Heineken and forgetting to wear a rubber "planning"). And at my son's birth my wife and I were very sure of two things: 1) That we loved the little tyke and 2) That we most definitely, under any circumstances, did not want any more fucking children.

Perhaps this sounds callous or harsh or unparently, but it's the truth.  If by some perversion of fate we were to have another child we would still love the little guy or girl, but I still wouldn't have wanted it and would have to reconcile those feelings for the rest of my natural life.  There might be some out there who say that love knows no bounds and there's always more metaphorical room in your heart for more love, but I have learned through experience that this is simply not the case.  I now know that my hear contains only a finite amount of love, and the amount allocated to any biological offspring I might have has already been divied up between my two kids and there is none left to give.  In fact, I'm pretty fucking sure that at twenty-nine years old I have already determined the limits of my love and they're not that big.  The truth is that I am not alone in this.  People don't have infinite amounts of love.  Love is not infinite.  People are not infinite beings.  Humans are temporal, finite creatures with limits.  I can't love everyone all the time.  That's fucking impossible.  I'm at the point in my life now where the boat is full up and any new stowaways mean booting somebody else into the icy cold waters.  If I made any new friends or had any new kids, I'd have to get rid of another of equal or lesser value to make some room.

The simple fact was,my wife and I didn't want any more kids.  So we were taking steps to ensure it would never, ever happen.  It's called being a responsible human being.  Responsible parenting is shaving your balls at ten o'clock at night sitting on the edge of a bathtub with a mirror between your legs so you can see parts of yourself you never wanted to see clearly in bright, 100 watt light.  It's getting government funded surgery to have my vas deferentia severed and then sealed in order to prevent my sperm from entering my ejaculate.  To the Catholic church I'm sure that any form of birth control (outside of the bafflingly naive natural family planning theory) especially that involving surgery is seen as an abomination for some reason.  Yet another example of how organized religion and logical reasoning seem to be able to peacefully coexist without the former ever having any real contact with the latter.  (But I suppose that's another discussion for another time and another place when I'm not quite as drunk... However in the interest of peaceful coexistence I am willing to make a deal with the Catholic church: I will recant all my ramblings about your backwards religion if your priests stop fucking little boys.)  But really, as a responsible human being and parent this kind of contraception is the only logical thing to do.  And I'll tell you why.

First of all, you will,in all likelihood, be a shitty parent.  This is not a personal indictment of your character, it is simply a well-known but often-forgotten fact.  Most people are simply not mentally or emotionally competent enough to have and raise children (keep in mind this important distinction that many people don't think or talk about -"having" children and "raising" children).  That's not a bad thing.  For a long time our culture has constructed our identity in relation to the nuclear family and our ability to have children.  Being fertile was a bonus.  This was all well and good when you needed cheap labour for your farm so you'd have your wife pump out five more kids to help you work it, or when the world's population was at an easily sustainable amount somewhere in the hundreds of millions, and the average life expectancy was around eighteen.  But times change.  Societies evolve.  People like to fuck.  A lot.  And those goddamn doctors keep finding ways to extend our lives despite humanities best efforts to destroy itself. The point is that archaic rules set down thousands of years ago have little to no practical application in our day to day lives. 

So my first advice to people who ask me (because it happens all the time) if they should have kids is: don't.  Don't have kids.  You probably won't enjoy it.  They require a great deal of financial and social sacrifices, incredible levels of physical and mental endurance, and to top it all off they're fucking messy.  Unless changing shit-filled diapers by lamplight through half-opened eyes at three in the morning sounds like your idea of fun.  Unless cleaning puke off yourself for the fifth time today sounds like a great time.  Unless having your time and attention monopolized by a smaller version of yourself who is unable to contribute either economically or intellectually to the house makes your panties a little wetter.

And, let's be honest, the odds are that you probably won't be any good at being a parent.  Being a good parent requires a lot ow hard work and personal sacrifices that you're probably too selfish to give up, or at least not without horribly resenting the person foremost responsible (Or I guess second most responsible if you don't count that one night of unprotected sex when your drunken sperm somehow made it to that egg even though you never made it to the bathroom and ended up waking up in a pool of (what you hope) is vomit) for the rest of your natural life, unless that person becomes a plastic surgeon or a divorce attorney or wins the lottery and gives you a shit-ton of money out of some twisted sense of social obligation despite your years of terrible parenting and bitter resentment.  Think back not only on your own childhood, but also on all the stories your friends have told you about theirs.  Now think about how many of you had shitty childhoods not due to random acts of fortune such as car accidents, alien abductions or clown-related muggings (Hey, it happens more often than you'd think.).  Many experts agree* that the percentage of positive, healthy childhoods is around 20%.  (*This has yet to be confirmed.)

The simple fact of the matter is that most people are simply not cut out to be parents.  Below is a simple mix and match of the majority of people who eventually wind up as parents.  Some people:

1. Think they want children, but                           
2. Know they want children, but                          
3. Don't think they want children, but          
4. Know for a fact from the very core of                  
their being that they don't want children, but

a) really have no fucking clue.
b) aren't emotionally mature enough raise a child.
c) have no business being allowed within 100 feet of a child.
d) will do it anyway to make their significant other happy.
e) will do it anyway because of social expectations.
f) will foolishly have unprotected sex, knowing full well the potential consequences.
g) will get drunk and have unprotected sex, not fully cognisant of the consequences whatsoever.

Perhaps this seems like kind of a harsh indictment of your mom even though I don't know you (and probably don't want to) but I think that if you really think about it most people are either not equipped to have children or just plain don't want to.

This is not a bad thing.

My wife and I entered into our marriage knowing that we both wanted to have children.  This seems like an odd point to mention, but you'd be surprised at how often this debate comes up with married couples we know.  I don't know how this conversation couldn't possibly have come up before the wedding if you, oh I don't know, talked to your fucking future husband/wife for more than thirty minutes.  Having kids is a pretty heavy commitment -arguably (and actually) more important than signing over the exclusive rights to your genitals for the rest of your life.  Bringing a new human life into the world is a huge responsibility and not a choice to be made lightly like picking Coke or Pepsi (Which I suppose is really no choice at all unless you liked all those stupid Pepsi commercials with the Coke and Pepsi truck drivers and like drinking shit.).  My wife and I talked early on about having children and about how many we wanted (though those first naive calculations quickly went out the window after the birth of my daughter) as it seemed like a pretty make-it-or-break-it bargaining point.

So to sum up point number one, you (yes, you) shouldn't have children because you're probably too selfish and your kids will probably turn out fucked up because of your half-assed parenting because you didn't want them in the first place.  However, if you still somehow believe that you will be a good parent and are as prepared as you can be to raise that child then let me remind you of the larger social concerns at play.  Think globally.  The world's population is currently just under seven billion people.  In scientific terms that's a lot of fucking people (hey, that works on two levels).  "Sure," you might say to yourself, "but what does the human race have to do with me?  I wasn't the idiot who created it."  True as that may be, this massive population of semi-intelligent primates does have some long lasting, potentially devastating consequences.  I suppose there have been harbingers of doom ranting nonsense about the End of the World for centuries, but we're at a point in our history now where we've gathered vast amounts of data, posted that data on the Internet, and are able to take that data out of context to support any conclusions we may draw with surprising accuracy.  However, it doesn't take a genius to see that the current global population of around 6.8 billion homo sapiens is beginning to put tremendous strain on the environment (Didn't any of you watch Al Gore's AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH?  Nobody?  Really?) not to mention resources like food and fresh water which we, uh, need to survive.  (Check out A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright to get a good idea of how we keep shooting ourselves in the foot and the potential consequences of our inability to think about the future.)

So as a responsible citizen of the planet Earth if you are in any way unsure about having children it is your duty not to have any.  Why the hell would you contribute to a growing global crisis by putting strain on an already strained supply of limited resources by creating another mouth to feed that you're not even sure you even want?  Does this sound as crazy to anybody else as it does to me?

OK so now you've decided that you are indeed ready to raise a child and you selfishly ignore the world's problems and you decide -against my best advice, mind you- to go ahead and have children anyway then could you at least do the rest of us a favour. Have a logical number of children, somewhere between 0 and 2.  Even two is pushing it.  Zero and one are really the most socially responsible options for parents because that way you get to have your little pooping bundle of joy (seriously, my daughter has taken some monster shits that I honestly wouldn't have believed could have come from a three-year-old had I not witnessed it myself),you're still producing more consumers to keep our economy going, and you're also helping to lower the world's population in the long run thereby lessening the burden on our dwindling energy and food supplies.  At two children you're basically showing that you're at best indifferent to the whole thing and not ballooning the population, but not lessening it either.  If you have three or more kids you're basically just an asshole.  What?  It's not supposed to be funny.  It's fucking true.

So really my decision to get a vasectomy was just me doing my small part to help the world.  I could not stand by and add to this blatant overpopulation continue unabated.  I was doing my small part to give to the world by taking away my sperm (Which, according to the literature, would be reabsorbed back into my body.  This in turn led me to wonder if all that extra sperm that wasn't being ejaculated into my wife or a dirty sock or a crumpled wad of toilet paper being reabsorbed into my body would actually give me some kind of biological edge.  Maybe even super powers.  Who knows what kind of long term effects all that reabsorbed sperm might have on a human being?  Maybe with my body cannibalizing all that extra sperm I would have more energy, be able to go longer without food or water, be stronger and faster.  No longer will I waste my valuable sperm on women.  I will keep it all for myself and finally achieve my true potent(ial).  I could be a superhero: Sperm Man, The Sperminator, The Human Sperm, Captain Sperm.  I don't know, the name still needs some work.)

On May 19th I was laying in another room, this time in the hospital.  I was wearing a hospital gown pulled up far enough to reveal my shaved cock and balls while the urologist and the nurse did their thing to my thing.  Once again the doctor seemed to lack a little bedside manner, though he was a little more open than when I had seen him last.  I suppose I couldn't blame him if he was a little cranky: I would be too if I had to handle other men's dicks all day long.  I was almost disappointed at how callously he treated my pork sword, like it was just another inanimate object, although in retrospect this was probably for the best.  The procedure involved going in through the balls, so he tossed my shaft aside like a teenager tossing a Big Mac at McDonalds: with the mundane casualness that comes with routine.  He seemed almost bored as he slathered my pubic region in some kind of brown antiseptic.  Although I couldn't see his face, I could tell he was almost bored as he stabbed a giant needle into my left kiwi to freeze it.

Now, the only other time I've had any part of my body frozen was for dental work.  Once when I got a couple teeth pulled I had my gums frozen, but this time was different.  When I had my gums frozen I could feel that they were frozen.  I could sense that absence of feeling.  But this time I couldn't tell that anything was frozen.  I couldn't feel that I couldn't feel my testicles.  I had no idea what was going on until the doctorb (the "B" is for "bargain!") told me he was going to start on the other side.  All I ever felt was the original needle going in, which although wasn't that bad, was still not a great feeling to have in the old punching bags.

The whole procedure itself only lasted about fifteen minutes.  I actually spent more time in the waiting room that in the exam room.  After it was all done I was sent to the bathroom to clean up all the antiseptic shit off of my cream-filled ding dong and put my clothes back on.  As I stood in the bathroom naked from the waist down and cleaning that gunk off of my schlong, I was once again struck my the hairless state of it.  I remember the night before looking at my kosher pickle in the mirror and being reminded of one of those rubber chickens you always see in joke shops.  Without hair he looked kind of sad and lonely, like a tree without leaves, or a Marty McFly without his (stylish yet practical) orange, life preserver vest.

Afterwards I went back out to the waiting room where I had to... wait.  For fifteen minutes.  Just in case there was any excessive bleeding.  From my penis.  Let me fucking tell you something: any bleeding from my penis is too much.  After I got the OK my wife drove me home where I proceeded to hunker down and build my nest in the basement where I would be staying for the next few days.  Because you see, it wasn't over yet.  You're not supposed to shower for three days after the procedure.  I'm not sure why you're not supposed to get your family jewels wet.  Maybe something to do with infection.  Either way, I was going to make damn sure not to disobey the doctor's orders.  No showering for three days.  No heavy lifting for three days.  No sexual intercourse for seven days.  (Well after six years of marriage that lat one shouldn't be too hard... oh wait... I just made myself sad...)

So in light of my pre(dick)ament I did the only responsible thing I could think of: holed myself up in the basement with a bunch of chocolate and proceeded to play video games for 72 straight hours.  I know the doctor said no strenuous activity, but being the responsible fellow that I was I wasn't going to take any chances.  I would do absolutely no activity, just to be on the safe side.  This wasn't as easy as you might think.  I mean, I had to dodge not only chores and personal hygiene, but also a wife and kids, all without moving.  And despite all my wife's frustration about three days of having to do all of the chores, cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing, I'm sure she'll be grateful that whenever I park my Batmobile in her dark, wet Batcave there will be no Batbabies nine months down the line.  And on the plus side, I really busted out my Xbox gamer score.  I'm now over 10,000.  I'm sure even my wife -an ardent non-gamer- can see the significance of that achievement.

Besides which, I would have been pretty useless anyway.  A vasectomy offers a strange sort of pain.  Sometimes when you're lying there not moving, pumped full of both Advil and Tylenol with a soggy bag of half-frozen peas on your crotch, you suddenly notice how you're not really feeling any pain in the old tube steak and you fool yourself into thinking that maybe you're one tough motherfucker and that it's really not all that painful.  And then you try to get up and move, and it turns out you're wrong.  It wasn't a sharp pain, and wasn't in the testicles themselves where the incisions were made.  It was a more general pain in your abdomen, the same kind of feeling like when you get kicked in the ball sack.  It was here I started to notice that despite their constant berating of men for no knowing anything about them, women know surprisingly little about men.  Every time I had to explain my pain to a man, I simple told them "It's like getting kicked in the nuts."  They'd wince or nod their head.  When I told that to my wife or her friends, I kind of got that I-don't-know-what-that-means-but-I'll-laugh-to-be-friendly laugh, and I found myself explaining the pain of getting nailed right in the old bacon bazooka, and that the real pain isn't down there it's slightly North, right in your guts.  The first time I had to take a shit was not pleasant, having to push with the muscles in my lower abdomen.

While we're on the subject I did notice another gender-related phenomenon related to my vasectomy.  Whenever I was talking to my wife's female friends about the procedure they would inevitably ask about the pain, which I would describe for them.  Now almost every time after I described my pain to a woman I would invariably be met with the response "Well, I'll bet it's not as bad as giving birth."  And I'd think to myself Wow.  Let the record state that I never once, ever tried to compare getting a vasectomy with giving birth to a living, breathing human being.  I never even tried to insinuate it.  In giving my description of my pain it never even occurred to me that there was a parallel between the two.  I don't know why women felt the need to draw this comparison.  Maybe it's because of this bizarre concept of The Battle of the Sexes, where men and women are somehow ideologically at war with one another.  Or maybe women have this chip on their collective shoulder and they feel that having a corner on pain and suffering sets them on some moral high ground.  Well I'm not going to argue with you.  If you're trying to get into an argument about whose life is shittier, then that's an argument I don't particularly care to win.  If you say you have more suffering and pain in your life, I'm not going to contradict you.  You probably do.  I will not try to take away your cross.  You can carry it with you the rest of life for all I care.  You win this one, ladies.  Of course, hearing about (and actually witnessing -twice) how painful childbirth is it still didn't change the fact that my balls were aching and it was fucking uncomfortable.  Amazingly hearing about somebody else's pain didn't help to ease mine at all.  (And I thought you people were supposed to be all empathetic and shit.)

Although, I can't really blame women if they feel bitter about shit.  Another thing that was pointed out to me was some inherent institutionalized sexism within the medical establishment.  The cost of my vasectomy was approximately $0 because I (currently (which means currently at the time of writing this article)) reside in Ontario, Canada which means that this particular medical procedure is covered by OHIP, a form of governmental health insurance which means that if I'm poor I don't have to die in the street of an easily curable medical problem like I would in the United States with its archaic and highly inefficient private insurance/health care system.  The corresponding surgery for women -a much more invasive procedure involving "tying off" the fallopian tubes- is also covered under the same insurance plan, however, typical birth control techniques like birth control pills, the morning after pill or IUD's (Intrauterine Devices) -all products for women- will cost you a chunk of change.     

But anyway.  The pain wasn't so bad if you kept still.  The other other part of the whole after effects was kind of psychological.  By the end of the first day there was some obvious swelling, and some bruising on my right nut.  By morning of the second day my entire right testicle was completely black and blue and bruised to shit.  Now, had I seen that same bruising anywhere else on my body, I would have brushed it off like the next TRANSFORMERS movie*, but it really is disconcerting to see your already sad, naked little soldier now those unnatural shades.  Not only that, but I don't know if you've shaved your pubic region before, but it's really fucking uncomfortable as the hair grows back in.  I don't know if it's the same kind of discomfort for chicks, but for dudes we have a lot of different surfaces dangling down there rubbing against each other in the dark, and really short hair like that feels like Velcro rubbing between your thighs and your balls.  That was not fun at all.  And then there was the smell.  After two days of not showering, or really changing my clothes, I was getting a really good stink building up in my underwear which I found impressive but my wife found "fucking disgusting" and made me go upstairs and change my clothes.  Then I figured for the sake of preventing possible infections I should air my blood sausage out for a couple hours.  Let me tell you, there is nothing like playing Fallout 3 laying on your couch with your package hanging out there.  It was so liberating, and I'm pretty sure my gaming ability improved.  So from now on you can be pretty sure that if you ever play a game with me online, I'm most likely going to be playing with my pants off. 
(*Suck it, DARK OF THE MOON)

Anyway, long story short, it took me about two weeks to really get back in the swing of things with relatively no discomfort.  The first time I jerked off (exactly seven days after the procedure) it actually kind of hurt a little when I came.  I was relieved, however, that A) My erection was unaffected and still rock fucking hard, B) I still blew a nice load, and C) My penis didn't fall off (Which is a concern any time something unusual happens down there.  What, you don't worry about that?  You've never had the dream?).  After a couple times of yanking my own crank, everything seemed to level out.  Then a couple weeks later I finally got a full field test when I slipped my wife a slice of my pepperoni pizza.  Everything went smoothly, though it still kind of sucks right now because condoms are still part of the equation.  For any of you out there who are thinking of getting a vasectomy or who've had one and didn't read the instructions, it apparently can take up to ten weeks or longer for your semen to be completely sperm-free.  So even though the doc had reprogrammed my Cockatron 2000 not to upload sperm during coitus for the next couple months I'll still have to slip on a rubber when dipping my double stuff Oreo into her glass of milk.  It kind of sucks.  I don't find condoms as comfortable as I used to, and I seem to be extra sensitive to the rubbery latex smell which I never noticed before either.  It must be my new super sperm powers.  Ten weeks after the vasectomy have to jerk off into a cup -for medical purposes this time- and have it tested to make sure that in the the battle of man versus sperm man has emerged victorious. 

The only other thing that really struck me about the whole experience was a sense of buyer's remorse which I just can't seem to shake.  I remember even as a kid feeling this strange sense of guilt whenever I bought something, even when it was something that I really, really wanted.  Part of it was the fear that the product might not live up to my expectations and part of it was making a definite decision about utilizing a finite resource.  Buying one thing I wanted meant not buying ten other things I wanted just as bad.  By buying that one product it was like telling myself I couldn't buy that other shit, which all of the sudden seemed like a better deal by comparison.   I don't regret getting the surgery done at all.  I don't want to have any more kids and start back at ground zero.  Every diaper I change now is one less I will ever have to change in my entire life.  If my wife left me or died and I somehow managed to start another relationship, I would not want to have kids again.  My mind is made up.  It's just the psychology of wanting what you can't have even though you don't even really want it.  Just knowing that I was getting a (most likely) irreversible procedure that would prevent me from creating more children all of the sudden made me anxious.  I don't like to be told what I can't do, and often have the urge to do the exact opposite of what I'm told just on principle alone.

Which lead me down another road.  A couple my wife and I know are trying to get pregnant for the second time.  The first time the wife had to take all kinds of drugs and injections and shit just so they could get pregnant, and this time it's not looking very good for them at all.  As I sat coalescing in my basement after my vasectomy I pondered what this couple's thoughts -and the thoughts of couples like them the world over- about my decision might be.  I mean, here they were trying so hard to get something that I was deliberately throwing away.  It must seem like an ideological slap in the face to them.  Infertility by choice.  But from where I'm sitting it's the only sane choice.  Fertility treatments seem insane to me.  Then you end up with abominations like the Octomom.  And for what?  To add to an already over-populated planet and strained global infrastructure just so your genetic material can get passed on to the next generation?  There's plenty of kids out there already waiting for parents.  Love is not bound my genetics.  Biological relationships don't define who you can love.  You want to spread your love?  There's entire continents worth of people who could use a fucking hug.  Being a parent is not the be all and end all of your identity either.  My wife and I love our kids, but I don't think that our lives would somehow have been inferior had we not been able to have them.  Illogical social constructions lead to irresponsible decisions which add to all of our problems.  Do us all a favour and if you're not sure you want to be a parent then don't.  Go and get spayed or neutered right now.  If you can't have kids, before you try fertility treatments, see if you can adopt a kid just to see if you'd be deemed to be an acceptable parent.  Food for thought.

This article is dedicated to all the brave sperm who gave their lives -often needlessly- on the field of battle over the years.  At least now all the rest of them that are left can live out their days peacefully in some sperm resort nestled safely in my testicles hanging out by the pool sipping a bottle of pale ale.  They can rest easy knowing that their countrymen have already done their part and sacrificed so much so they could live in relative peace and luxury.  Enjoy your retirement you guys.  I'll (almost) miss you. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Don't Even Think About It

This article is not for you.

Stop reading right now.

I mean it.  This article is meant for a relatively specific subset of society, and odds are you aren't part of it and consequently won't give a shit about anything you're about to read should you have decided not to heed my warnings. 

If you're still reading, then let me reiterate: go away.  You will not receive any intellectual or emotional enjoyment out of the content this article.  Just in case you're a little thick or high the following is a checklist of prerequisites for understanding/enjoying this article.  To proceed you must meet at least all of the following:

1) You have spent more than five consecutive hours shooting virtual, 8-bit ducks with a light gun.
2) Still regret not buying that Virtual Boy.
3) Have actually been involved in a real argument about which was better: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
4) To this day still spell cart with a "k" and a "m-a-r-i-o."
5) Still can't understand why anybody ever derived any pleasure from any Sonic the Hedgehog game. (Seriously, what pieces of shit.)
6) Spent more time blowing into a cartridge to get it to start working than actually playing a game.
7) Still hold to the firm belief that "blowing" is valid form of repair for electronic devices.
8) You know what a Tanooki Suit is without having to look it up on Wikipedia.
9) Have ever fantasized about having sex with Samus Aran, Princess Daisy, Princess Peach, or Zelda.
10) Know the difference between Princess Peach and Princess Daisy.
11) Have -at any time- considered getting -or actually gotten- the Nintendo logo or any Nintendo character tattooed on any part of your body.
12) Have attempted an ill-advised "space jump" off the roof of your house.
13) Have ever spent a night drinking and playing Super Mario World and remember it as being one of the "best nights of your life."
14) You have spent time debating -in all seriousness- whether Toad or King Koopa is a better driver.
15) You have owned more than three different versions of the Gameboy.
16) You have actually declined sex in favour of controlling a tiny, moustached, stereotypical Italian plumber and making him jump and smash bricks with his head.
17) You have contemplated whether or not "moustached Italian plumber" is actually a stereotype.
18) You love pussy.  (Just making sure you're still paying attention.  Cock is fine too.)
19) Unlike many naysayers you thought that "cube" was the perfect shape for a video game system.
20) Your lucky number is 64.
21) Spicing things up in the bedroom means convincing your significant other to wear a pointy green hat, a futuristic space helmet or a red hat and moustache.
22) You and your friends still keep a running count of how many games of Goldeneye you have won, those totals are all counted in (at least) the hundreds, and the document upon which this tally is kept is revered as a sacred document.
23) To this very day you still hold out some vague sense of hope that the third arm on the Nintendo 64 controller with the D-pad wasn't just for show.
24) Still feel cheated after you found out that Super Mario Bros. 2 was all just Mario's fucking fevered, hash-inspired dream.
25) Your favourite ensemble cast appeared in Super Smash Bros.
26) When playing with a friend you have purposely gotten Mario killed just so you could be the one to play the "boot level" in the fifth world of Super Mario Bros. 3.
27) Have been defeated by a character called "Bubbleman."  (You've got to be shitting me...)
28) Your idea of a romantic evening is a bottle of Pepsi, a frozen pizza, and watching some anime tentacle porn involving Princess Peach while your wife/girlfriend/hooker gives you a handjob and you make her/pay her to whisper "It'sa, me! Mario!" over and over again in your ear.
29) You have written at least one fan script for The Legend of Zelda movie.
30) For you the Power Glove is not only a superior way of playing games, it's also a great fashion statement.
31) You've jerked off at least once while wearing the Power Glove.
32) You have -at any point in your life- referred to your penis as "Megaman."  (Or, if you're a chick, have been forced to refer to your boyfriend's/husband's genitals in such a way.)
33) Know for a fact that when you need to kill zombies (or infected Spaniards) Leon S. Kennedy is the only man for the job.  (Yeah, fuck you Chris Redfield...)

That's right, I'm talking bout video games: more specifically Nintendo.  For those of you left reading this article then prepare to have your head explode with awesomeness.  Although, at this point, it probably already has.  Apparently Nintendo was having so much fun just printing money with the Wii, that they figured: hey, why the fuck not?  Let's make even more cash by coming out with a new system boldly called the Wii U.  I have no idea how the fuck Nintendo chooses its names anymore.  I miss the good old days I could understand the process like just putting the superlative "Super" in front of your name.  It doesn't matter though.  No matter what Nintendo does or says I will continue to buy their reasonably priced products, and typically before buying similar products from their competitors.  This is because (at least when it comes to video games) I am a brand name whore.

Arrested Development. (Seriously awesome show, though.  Totally check it out.)  Throwing money at the problem isn't going to help those people.  What's needed is socially responsible governments to step in, work together to set up a stable political and social infrastructure, bringing in trained volunteers (or paid specialists at a discount rate) to establish an education system that teaches, among other things, reading, writing, and effective birth control techniques, basic medical care, and sustainable farming techniques so they can take over their own means of production and stand on their own to feet in a global marketplace.  So in other words, they're completely fucked.

Money can't solve the problem of global food shortages, but it can solve the problem of a Nintendo system without HD resolution.  The Wii U is not due out until next year, but I'm already saving up my allowance.  But why, you may ask, is Nintendo apparently jumping the gun and developing a new console well ahead of when most experts (on random websites on the Internet) seem to feel that the life of the Formerly-Next-Gen-But-Now-Current-Gen systems like the Wii and the PS3 and the Xbox 360 would probably extend past the typical four or five year life cycle due to mostly to technological concerns and the  shifting worldwide economy (ie. it currently sucks balls).  Seeing as we're already in the fifth year for the PS3 and the Wii and the sixth year for ye olde Xbox 360, they would have been right had Nintendo not just announced their impending ass-raping of both Sony and Microsoft (gaming division).

Sony and Microsoft were banking on technological superiority, not just in processing power but also in ideology.  We're now at a point where extending the life of a video game console is a viable option because companies can offer software updates that add new features and new functionality without having to actually physically design and mass produce an entirely new system.  It's like what Sega tried to do with stuff like the Sega CD, except, you know, good.  The most recent example is Sony's update for the PS3 to allow it to play 3D BluRay and video games.  Video game systems are at the point now where -graphically speaking- stuff looks fucking great and the gaming community has dug themselves into a fairly comfortable rut.  Except the folks at Nintendo.

Early on -even before it's release- the Wii was blasted by critics for its inferior processing power compared to her heavyweight opponents the PS3 and Xbox 360.  It was a weird kind of circular mentality we'd gotten into, and one for which Nintendo was at least partially responsible.  Conventional wisdom churned out by The Great Marketing Machine was that the great new aspect of any new gaming console was its increase in processing power.  Even as a kid I remember earnestly discussing the merits of 16 bit as opposed to 8 bit gaming systems, even though at the time I only had a vague understanding of what that actually meant.  What it boiled down (for a kid anyway) was better graphics.  And really that was the big selling feature featured in marketing campaigns for video game consoles for years.  The major aspect of the Nintendo 64 that was on the minds of consumers was new 3D graphics.

Then came one of the first paradigm shifts in the usage of the video game console.  The PS2 and the Xbox not only boasted 3D graphics, but also the ability to play DVD's and CD's.  Holy shit.  All of the sudden video game systems were actually realizing Nintendo's original dream of becoming "entertainment systems."  One would have thought that this trend would come to dominate the video game industry, but it hasn't really.  And I suppose Nintendo is the exception that disproves the trend.  About the time the Then-Next-Gen systems the PS3 the 360 and the Wii were coming onto the market was also around the times the next round of the great Format Wars in which new digital video formats were competing for our eye-space.  The PS3 -produced by Sony- obviously had BluRay playback because Sony was behind the BluRay, and needed to pimp that shit because they couldn't afford another disastrous and humiliating loss like when their Beta cassette format lost out in the consumer market to VHS, despite its superior quality.  Yeah marketing.  Microsoft also embraced the Format Wars with its new Xbox 360... sort of.  What we got was the standard DVD compatibility and an HDDVD drive that you could buy separately at a fairly steep price (around $199 - the cost of a hooker and a Triforce tattoo in Vegas).  And of course the Wii had the ability to play back... nothing.

Looking at sheer processing power it would be pretty easy to see who the big swinging dick of the latest generation of consoles was.  On paper the PS3 seemed to have it all.  Or did it?  See that's the thing, having the biggest cock in the room is useless if you don't know how to advertise it.  Or how to package it at an affordable price.  This was the first area where it became apparent that despite it's inferior technical specs the Wii was a serious contender. Clocking in at about $250 at it's release the Wii was easily the most economically viable of the systems.  The Xbox 360 would set you back anywhere between $300 and $400 dollars (depending one whether or not you, oh I don't know, wanted to save your fucking games or anything).  And the PS3 topped them all with an opening bid of about $600.  Before tax.  Ouch.  For that same price you could get a tranny stripper to tie your dick in knots all night long and leave a gaping, bloody wound where your asshole used to be, if that's what you're into.  (Not that I'm trying to draw any comparisons or anything...)

Even early on in the War before the consoles were even released, it as obvious that this time was different.  Nintendo specifically was taking a whole new angle to how they were marketing their system.  Instead of merely "playing with power" Nintendo took a drastically different turn in their whole gaming ideology.  Instead of merely boosting graphics they were trying to influence the way we actually played games.  Their latest controller was completely unique from anything else on the market.  Not only did it come in two parts, it was motion sensitive.  We know this strange device now as the Wii Remote and Nunchuck.  This was technology that had never been successfully (at least to my knowledge) mass-produced for consumers before.  What it represented was innovation in the way we actually interacted with the virtual world on the screen instead of just innovation with the virtual world.  Whether you thought it was the stupidest thing since Bill Clinton's "it depends on what your definition of 'is' is" defence or whether you immediately blew your load upon hearing of this awesomeness, you had to give props to Nintendo for being innovative and thinking outside the box, or as Doc Brown would say, "come here teenage boy thinking three dimensionally."  Personally I thought it was pretty fucking cool, and I'm down with any controller that can legally be classified as a ninja weapon.  I always believed that the Wiimote actually made more sense for shooting games than traditional controllers.  It seemed more intuitive to me to actually physically point and shoot with my hand in the real world.  For some this is apparently not the case.  One of my best experiences so far was with the Wii port of Resident Evil 4.  When using the Wiimote my shooting accuracy went up by about ten to fifteen percent on average throughout the game.

So now we begin to see how Nintendo's last system came to dominate the consumer market.  It wasn't about gaming, it was about the idea of gaming.  It was conceptual.  You don't buy a video game console: you buy a concept.  An ideology.  What the Wii represented was A) A gaming system aimed at a more diverse economic audience with it's price point set much lower than it's competitors, B) Innovation in the way we physically experienced gaming, C) The (sometimes subtle) emphasis on quality over quantity, and D) The distinction between different types of gamers.

Before the last generation of consoles came out, I had never really thought about the type of gamer I was.  I was just a dude who liked video games.  I had always classified people as video game people and non-video game people.  Then all of the sudden all of these ads on TV and the Internet categorized people as either a "casual gamer" or a "hardcore" gamer.  I'm still not sure where or whether I fit in, or whether there's a whole spectrum.  I wouldn't really classify myself as "hardcore" because I typically play games on their "Normal" difficulty instead of their "Hard" difficulty, I don't always go back and play the same game five times in a row just to get all of the achievements (thank you Xbox ), I don't buy user guides so that I can complete every single mundane aspect of a game just for "bragging rights," and I don't play either WoW or Call of Duty, which seems to be a prerequisite for "hardcore" gamers the world over.  Nor would I classify myself as casual because I own all of the current systems (And also a backlog of about five or six previous systems.  Go Super Nintendo!), I have a pretty diverse interest in games (Except racing games and sports games, which I loathe, and CoD, which I can't get into), I have gone on gaming sessions lasting upwards of twenty-four hours (On SSX Tricky of all things.  You should have seen our fucking trick scores, though.), and have sacrificed personal relationships, personal well-being due to bladder related injuries, lack of nutrition and (severe) lack of sleep, and personal hygiene in order to "play more."  Admittedly with a family it's getting a lot harder to find the time to play games, but for all you hardcore gamers out there: don't worry, my love of video games is slowly chipping away at my relationship with my wife and kids too. 

But all of the sudden I had to choose a side.  The Wii was the first of this generation of consoles that I picked up, being a Nintendo whore and all, and for a long time that alone was enough to qualify me as a casual gamer.  While to me this seemed like a social stigma of the highest calibre, Nintendo actually embraced this ideology.  What I saw as an insult from overweight, acne-prone, anti-social freaks whose approval I somehow simultaneously craved and disdained, Nintendo saw as a great marketing tool.  When the gaming community said "casual" I heard "inferior" but the execs at Nintendo heard "accessible."  All of the sudden you had game play so intuitive (the hardcore gamer might call it "simple" or "childish", but I would retort by asking him to describe what a vagina feels like (you know, because he can't because he's too much of a loser trying to get a glimpse of partial nudity in games like God of War (you know the scene) than to actually get laid in real life)) that you could go from shooting Spanish zombies to bowling with granny in five seconds flat.

All of the sudden the gaming market opened up to whole new demographics.  The inmates residents in old folks home could pass their last remaining years away waiting for death with a few games of virtual bowling, golf, or tennis.  Fitness nuts or people who wanted to get into shape but were too embarrassed to go to a gym with other human beings could start using video games as motivation to exercise with cool shit like the Wii Fit.  Men, women, young, old: it was a gaming orgy and all were invited to partake in the carnal pleasure.  Nintendo -and to some extent Sony and Microsoft- even took it a step further. The Wii was billed as a great companion system to the PS3 and the Xbox 360.  Now it was like they weren't even in competition any more, even though they really were.  You buy the PS3 for the hardcore gamer in the family so little Timmy can play CoD and teabag his defeated opponents to the point where they quit the game entirely and so the family could watch BluRays, and you buy the Wii so Jimmy can save Hyrule (again!) and Mom and Dad can try to get rid of those love handles, and then vote on stupid questions and check the weather.  It was a totally bizarre sort of eye in the marketing hurricane.

Fast forward five years and where does that leave Nintendo?  In a potentially precarious position.  With the Wii consistently outselling the other two systems for so long they've now reached a point of potential market saturation, or what I like to call the Guitar Hero Effect.  They've sold so many Wii's for so long that anybody who wants one probably has one.  This is great for Nintendo on one hand because now they can focus on selling games which is really how the industry makes money after losing so much on the systems.  On the other hand -from Nintendo's standpoint- there are still other markets to be captured.  And I mean after being on top for so long, it's hard not to want to chase that high again.  After so many years of relative non-competition with the "hardcore" consoles, Nintendo is ramping up to make their foray back into the hardcore demographic with the Wii U.  And finally here it is in all of its glory:

Stick it in me, you know you want to...
 As many people have already no doubt observed it looks kind of like if a Wii and an Xbox (not the new slim, but the old curvaceous one) got together, went out for dinner and movie, broke out a bottle of wine, listened to some Radiohead, and then had wild, dirty, unprotected sex of which the Wii U was the unabortable lovechild.  Although I think the technical specs are still slightly lower than the PS3 and Xbox 360, it will be able to pump out 1080p graphics via an HDMI cable and have the processing power to compete graphically with the other two systems.  It will also (listen to this you bastards at Sony) be backwards compatible with the Wii, so if some hardcore gamer wanted to take a break from playing the latest Bioshock and check out everybody's favourite moustached plumber, he would now have the option to do so all on one system.

What the Wii U won't do, however, (at the point in time in which this article was written) is play back BluRay's, DVD's, or CD's, I'm sure much to many people's chagrin.  Again -although at first glance kind of disappointing- this is genius on the part of Nintendo who will be able to keep production costs down and offer a competitive price point with a new system competing with established consoles.  Their take is if you want to watch BluRays and such you'll probably already have at least one such player in your house already.  The diabolical genius of this is that it's basically letting Sony and Microsoft do all the expensive, heavy lifting for them, and they can zoom in and still release a competitive dedicated gaming system.  Plus, with the advent of services like Netflix, BluRay and DVD playback becomes less of an important selling feature for the casual movie watcher anyway.

But the real crazy shit is the Wii U controller.  Once again Nintendo is leading the way in innovating how we interact with our games and bringing something new to the table.  As previously rumoured the controller will indeed have a six inch cock touch screen as you can see below.

Not only will it have a touch screen but also a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, a camera and microphone, and apparently even the make-it-or-break-it rumble feature which we all know is the epitome of gaming technology.  First thought?  Yes, apparently they turned the Nintendo DS into a controller.  Which is fucking awesome.  Second thought?  It does not look nearly as ergonomically designed as the PS3 or Xbox 360 controller.  What it actually feels like is a whole other story, but judging from how long kids are able to play a DS, I'm not really too concerned.

Either way, I'm already chomping at the bit to get my dick hands all over one of these things, but alas due to the linear nature of time I will have to wait until sometime in the Spring/Summer of 2012 before I can not buy one due to limited quantities being sold out at six in the morning, the time when most of us are getting ready to go to our respective jobs.  But I will buy it, guaranteed.  And even if Sony or Microsoft were coming out with a new system next year (which is not fucking likely at this point) and they were even close to the same price, I would still buy the Wii U first.  It has almost nothing to do with functionality and almost everything to do with illogical emotional attachment.  When I buy a new system the first thing I think about isn't technical specs.  I think about coming downstairs on Christmas day and playing Super Mario Bros. for the first time.  I think about about opening up the box for my new Gamecube or Wii and getting hit with that new-console smell.  The excitement of holding the new controller in my hand.  I think about the hours sitting in a dark basement on an otherwise perfect summer day and playing hours of Super Mario Kart or Goldeneye and having to deal with the dreaded video game headache for the rest of the day.  I dig Sony and Microsoft, and I love their shit too, but unfortunately for them they have to deal with a whole generation who, like me, is nostalgically loyal to Nintendo. 

Long live Mario.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Killer Fish, Big Breasts and Jerry O'Connell

Gratuitous.  That is the only word I can think of that perfectly to describe PIRANHA 3D.  It is a word which also encapsulates the entire concept of the movie.  There was absolutely nothing that was not unnecessary in this film.  PIRANHA 3D represents all that is wrong with the world today.  It stands as an affront to all that is decent, and pure, and right, and noble. 

Which is a good thing because that's really all this movie had going for it.

For me there was basically only one reason to watch PIRANHA 3D.  It was something I'd heard from several reviews of the film, a fact that was meant to be derisive and cautionary, but was music to my ears.  Three of the best words that can be used to describe the content of a movie: full frontal nudity.  Perhaps this seems childish and impractical because if I wanted to look at naked chicks I could easily go the Internet or use that secret peephole at the local YMCA women's change room.  But for some reason nudity in a mainstream, studio film somehow made it "OK" in the eyes of the conservative crackpots out there.  Or, at least, slightly more tolerable.  It was also a way to sneak in smut under the ever-manned defences of your significant other.  On any other occasion your wife/girlfriend/concubine/mail order bride -unless she was some liberal, nympho, sex-craved lunatic- would probably scoff at the idea of watching anything with naked people -especially other chicks.  But, when you watch a socially valid art form -in this case the Hollywood studio film- it somehow becomes acceptable to watch people frolic around naked, and even in explicit sex scenes.  It's like a porn cloaking device, like the Romulans somehow snuck some naked chicks aboard the Enterprise before Picard knew what was going on.  Now there's a lost episode I'd like to see.

Somehow, when nudity is put into the context of "pornography" it suddenly becomes taboo as if pornography was not a valid art form.  Most women are socially programmed to view other (attractive) women as competition, even if they're some random person on the television screen that can't actually interact with their husband/boyfriend/gimp-in-a-box and poses no real sexual competition whatsoever.  I suppose that there is an element of jealousy ingrained in the male psyche as well, however if I found my wife's collection of porno mags and her vibrator I wouldn't be upset by it.  Surprised, maybe, knowing my wife (although she did go to a live sex show in Amsterdam without me while we were still dating, so maybe not so surprised), but not angry or jealous.  Perhaps it's part of the sociological construction that makes women who have a lot of sex "sluts" and men who do the same thing "the man."  For reasons I can't comprehend women tend to be socialized to be as sexually conservative as possible while paradoxically being flooded with images of scantily-clad women with the "ideal" body type and setting an improbable standard that makes them question their own self esteem and teaches them to exude sexuality.  In essence women are supposed to be sexy, but not have sex.  Men, on the other hand, are programmed to believe that their relative "manliness" is directly linked to their sexual dominance, and then paradoxically forced into the social construction of monogamy.  This construction puts men in an equally awkward bind as they are forced to reconcile the fact that they are supposed to be sexual conquerors and yet be bound to one person. All in all, it seems pretty fucked up and makes me question whether I really want to retain any ties to the human race at all.

None of these thoughts ran through my mind as I walked up the stairs to Ryebone's apartment that Friday night.  I was just going over to hang out for a couple of hours.  I was greeted at the door by a partially-clothed Ryebone who greeted me in his usual style- a manly buffet on the shoulder followed by a loud fart and a maniacal laugh.  After he put on his pants, we settled into a familiar routine playing Rockband 3 on unreliable plastic instruments.  Ryebone has had notoriously bad luck when it comes to the musical peripherals that have become a staple in the home of any modern-day,self-respecting gamer.  The guitar I was forced to play with had a squeaky strum bar, and the yellow button had a habit of suddenly not registering in the game despite the fact that I was obviously still holding it down.

After an hour or so of rhythm gaming the decision was made to go to Dairy Queen.  This was to allow Ryebone to satiate a recently developed craving for DQ's Blizzards, and also to indulge one of his favourite hobbies: leering at and making sexually suggestive comments to young women working at fast food restaurants.  ("That'll be $5.67, sir."  "Perfect.  If you just reach into my pocket you'll find a roll of quarters." *wink*)  I got an Orange Julius in the most likely unfounded belief that it was somehow healthier and we went back to his place to complete the Friday Ritual.  Rybone booted up his vast network of computers and external drives where he stored his vast array of digital entertainment for which he had forsaken physical media.  We began scrolling through his collection of recently downloaded movies and we came across PIRANHA 3D.  It was getting fairly late by this point, so the trim running time of 88 minutes was a big selling feature.  Plus I had in mind those three hallowed words: full frontal nudity.  I was in the mood for something light, something I wouldn't have to concentrate too hard on (tee, hee, hee).  And ultimately the only reason I wanted to watch it was because I was a heterosexual man and I loved to look at breasts.  Plain and simple.

It was with this -the purest of intentions- that we set out to watch PIRANHA 3D (regrettably only in 2D because Ryebone -despite spending exorbitant amounts of money on a 3D TV- for some inexplicable reason was too cheap to lay down a couple hundred extra clams for the glasses needed to take advantage of the 3D gimmick technology).  From the very first scene it was evident that this was not a movie to be taken seriously.  Of course it was also evident that this was a movie that clearly didn't give a shit what anybody thought.  It had a clear and simple mandate: to show as much graphically portrayed tits and ass and gore as it was possible to get with an R rating.

The premise of PIRANHA 3D is as patently absurd as it is genius in its simplicity.  Seismic activity opens up an underwater cavern that holds a school of prehistoric piranha that are now released into a lake that just happens to be a spring break hot spot.  That's pretty much it.  From there on out you get a lot of what you paid for: bikini-clad women shaking their asses, wet t-shirt contests, Jerry O'Connell shooting a low-budget porn, an underwater scene with big-breasted naked porn stars (the way all underwater scenes should be) and finally people killing in unimaginably horrible ways.

I was surprised by the number of recognizable faces in this flick.  It starts off with an inexplicable cameo by Richard Dreyfus who dies within about two minutes of the beginning of the movie.  I'm not sure if the filmmakers wanted a callback to JAWS to add some sort of intertextual reference and add some legitimacy to their movie.  More likely they wanted some big name celebrities to help sell some tickets.  Ving Rhames shows up to kick some ass as a cop and is partnered with Elisabeth Shue who you'll probably recognize as Jennifer 2.0 from BACK TO THE FUTURE II and III.  Another BACK TO THE FUTURE staple, Christopher Lloyd, also showed up for the fun.  Also popping in are Eli Roth, Dina Meyer, Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives.  Yeah, you probably recognized him from those agonizing hours forced by your wife or girlfriend to watch that crap.), Adam Scott and of course Jerry O'Connell as the asshole porn film producer/director.  I suppose that Kelly Brook and Riley Steele might also have helped to draw in a certain type of crowd because I can only surmise from their filmographies on IMDB that they are porn stars of some variety.

There's not much more you need to know.  Like I said, everything in PIRANHA 3D is completely gratuitous and superficial and bears no greater significance than what is depicted on the screen.  There is no deeper meaning here.  There are half-naked and totally-naked chicks with giant tits, body shots, motorboating (both the kind with boats and the kind with breasts), a lot of alcohol, people being eaten alive by hungry, prehistoric aquatic predators, Ving Rhames killing hundreds of fish with an outboard motor, Richard Dreyfus's decayed, half-eaten corpse, a particularly terrible scene where a girl with her hair stuck in the propeller of a boat has her entire face ripped off while she is still alive, and to top it all off Jerry O'Connell's digitally recreated penis regurgitated on screen for what seemed like a really long time.  If any or all of that seems he least bit appealing to you, then PIRANHA 3D is definitely the movie for you. 

I'm still not sure whether I admire PIRANHA 3D for being an unpretentious movie with no goal other than for the actors or the audience to simply have a good time or totally hate it for being just another signpost that our culture is truly dying a terrible death that exhaults style over substance, or in this case tits and gory death over substance.  I won't say this movie is a must see, however if you want to sneak some nudity in under your significant other's nose in the guise of socially acceptable media, then this has to rank up there right behind WILD THINGS and SPECIES.  I give PIRANHA 3D a 4/10= One Excited Head MoterBoating a Pair of Perfect Breasts Then Taking Them Out To Tea Afterwards

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Undead Can Be Such Dicks

I recently had the chance to watch AMC's The Walking Dead on BluRay thanks to the Easter Bunny who somehow knew exactly what I needed: zombies, and more of them.  For some reason I have had a mild zombie obsession in the past couple of years, though it has not been a completely fulfilling one.  Shortly after I decided I wanted to ramp up my zombie movie collecting initiative I became acutely aware that zombies had become "mainstream," and that there was a whole subculture of zombie fans who were on the brink of making it no longer "sub".  Zombies have exploded in the public consciousness recently, though thankfully not to the point of  vampires (Although I have heard talk of a zombie rom-com (I can not make this shit up) called WARM BODIES, where a zombie and a human try to make it in a crazy, post-apocalyptic world. You can check out more info over at JoBlo.) with whom our culture has had a pretty passionate love affair with in recent years.  Just mention TWILIGHT in a room full of teenage girls and watch the insanity that ensues.  Thanks to this mild-teen-angst-and-budding-sexuality-loosely-shrouded-in-a-vampire-story an entire generation of guys named Edward and Jacob are currently in a prime position to get a ton of pussy for a few years, and then lead sad, shallow lives as hollowed out shells of human beings knowing that they "peaked" at age fifteen and then were mocked mercilessly for the rest of their lives until they die alone at age forty-five from high blood pressure as fat, balding corporate middlemen who were little more than scenery at their jobs and whose only legacy will be the ass grooves they left in the shitty chairs in their cubicles, where they sat for hours on end envious of their coworkers who actually got their own offices.

And while zombies are not quite at the point of cultural saturation as vampires, they are still popular enough to make me question my own level of excitement.  I'm not sure exactly why as a fairly rational human being I would still feel the need to deprive myself of pleasure on account of other people.  Perhaps it's because I like to construct my identity on the basis of the Theory of Premeditated Self-Marginalization.  Basically what this philosophy (conceived of by yours truly) boils down to is a mandate never to get too heavily or intricately involved in any social contract.  It means -at most- existing on the fringe of any given social group to which I might be categorized to belong to.  The purpose of this philosophy is fourfold:

1) To reap the benefits of being a part of this social group ie. building social capital which may pay off for me later.
2) To avoid the headaches that inevitably come with being emotionally invested in something that probably doesn't really matter much anyway.
3) To remain aloof and give me a feeling of superiority I might not otherwise get in my day to day life.  (The Amicable Rebel Syndrome).  This allows me to participate within the social group, but still gives me the moral imperative to criticize the members contained therein with impunity (if pulled off correctly) and -if necessary- abandon ship when the shit hits the fan.
4) To retain "plausible deniability" and avoid responsibility when whatever social group it is inevitably fucks up.

Now one might label this as "anti-social behaviour", but what it really is is "quasi-social behaviour" insofar as that I am not really working in opposition to society; I'm more making a mockery of it and bending it to my own twisted whims. 

So it came to be that within my social circles I reluctantly became a "zombie guy," though not as hardcore a fan as I have witnessed.  What it boils down to is a bunch of zombie movies, a few books (The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks is a good place to start) some zombie video and board games, and the beginnings of a collection of zombie graphic novels.  The first part of my zombie graphic novel collection was Marvel Zombies, which might technically be a trade paperback.  I don't know, I don't follow comics that much nor do I really give a shit.  I quickly added Marvel Zombies 2, not because the first volume had been particularly engaging or well-written; I just thought it was cool to see zombie superheroes.  The artwork was pretty kick-ass, but the whole idea of intelligent zombies really detracted from the whole idea of zombies and their cultural sigificance.  Zombies were supposed to be this mindless force of (un)nature that represented our ultimate fear of death.  Marvel Zombies was only really enjoyable in a visceral way.  No thinking required.

After countless times watching DAWN OF THE DEAD (The original.  Sorry, Zack Snyder), playing Zombies! and Last Night on Earth with some buddies in person and killing hordes of zombies in Left 4 Dead (one of the best games ever?) online I was serendipitously introduced to a key piece of zombie lore.  This came in the form of a comic called The Walking Dead.  This seemed especially fateful to me because the phrase "I feel like the walking dead" was something I had scribbled in the margins of countless notebooks during the course of writing a (as yet unpublished) novel.  It had almost become a mantra for me after a bad day or during a serious case of writer's block, and so hearing that it had become the title of a comic book -about zombies, no less- I got this chill down my spine like when I was younger and discovered free internet porn (followed closely by the disappointment in finding so much cock in supposedly heterosexual porn).  It was meant to be in some way. 

Because I was not a hardcore comic book collector I didn't feel it necessary to track down each individual comic.  At the Fan Expo in Toronto last August I picked up the first two volumes of the soft cover trade paperback editions of The Walking Dead.  I also picked up many deposits for the spank bank and left sporting a massive hard on.  I don't know what it is about chicks dressed in superhero costumes, but it's fucking hot (note to my wife).  As soon as I got home I immediately and feverishly read through the entire first volume Days Gone Bye.  It wasn't necessarily the best piece of literature I had ever read, but it was a serial comic book specifically about survivors fighting off zombies.  While I wasn't blown away by the narrative structure, it was solidly written, and consistent in the pacing, themes, and gruesome deaths.  I thought at first I might be put off by the fact that the comic was in black and white as I took it as a sign of laziness on the part of the illustrators ("You're just a tracer."  "I'll trace a chalk line around your dead fucking body, you fuck!") but what I later realized was that it was a conscious choice to illustrate the starkness of the world the survivors faced and to tie into the theme of morality that permeates every issue.  At first the characters are in shock and see the world in only black and white terms: survive or die.  As the narrative progresses they begin to realize that nothing was ever "black or white" and the world which although destroyed had in some ways seemed simpler was anything but.  I became a fan and started adding more volumes to my collection, as you should as well.

I believe that by this point in time AMC had already produced and aired several episodes of their television adaptation of Robert Kirkman's hugely successful comic book which I can only assume has already made him rich enough to build a full scale replica of Godzilla complete with fully functioning genitalia (for whatever twisted purposes we can only guess at).  I suppose it also bears mentioning at this point that the same man responsible for the mediocre Marvel Zombies was now the creator of a zombie empire that rivaled that of zombie master George A. Romero.  I suppose the nature of this achievement is relative to whether or not one believes Romero has at this point made more shit than quality goods.  I'm sort of on the fence about this myself.  Despite his own army of zombie-like fans apparently blinded by some intergalactic radiation into thinking he's some kind of master filmmaker I'm not sure whether Romero is extremely lucky or a total genius with some serious missteps (ie. LAND OF THE DEAD and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.  DIARY OF THE DEAD was pretty good actually).  Zombie fans around the world will forever be in debt to Romero for basically creating not only an entire genre of movies, but also of creating the modern-day idiom of the zombie.  But honestly, The Walking Dead blows the brains out of a lot of Romero's recent stuff and most zombie texts (literature/movies/songs/video games) out there today.

The thing that sets The Walking Dead apart from so many other zombie tales is how incredibly densely layered it is and the fact that it is so character driven.  It's the focus on the human relationships as opposed to just a bunch of gory deaths that makes The Walking Dead such a worthwhile and engaging read, although I will be the first to admit (willingly vocalize?) that it is not the best piece of literature I have ever read and I have found myself frustrated with the comic version at times.  One thing that really started to bug me was what I refer to as the SIX FEET UNDER Syndrome where for some reason the writers or directors or producers or creators or whatever take characters that I might have begun to empathize with and for some reason do everything in their power to subsequently make me hate those characters.  The main character in The Walking Dead -one Rick Grimes, a cop leading a group of survivors- started off as such a sympathetic character and now he's turning into kind of a dick.  I don't know if it's to illustrate the effects such stress has on the average human being, but it's really fucking annoying when I'm trying to like your shit so I don't feel like I've wasted all my time up to this point enjoying something that somebody else now wants to wipe their asses with.  All my ranting aside, I'm still a fan (though I'm pretty sure Robert Kirkman legally owes me a hand job from his wife and/or girlfriend while she eats a bucketful of raw cow tongues which is to be recorded on web cam and posted on the internet as a pixalized mess).

Now when I finally got around to watching AMC's television adaptation of The Walking Dead it had already been out long enough to have a lot of nerds with no real life post reviews on their blogs (...) so I heard a lot of feedback and most of it was... mixed.  I'd heard a lot of good and a lot of bad and a lot of consensus that after the first episode it was all downhill, which seemed like something a douchebag would say (like that Bowflex douche: "I gave all of my fat clothes to my fat friends").  A kind of backhanded compliment.  I didn't let it get to me, though.  I had hope that a solid concept handled by the same guys that produced Mad Men had to be at least palatable and at most solid, boner-inducing gold.

So now I come to the actual point of this article which is actually My review of The Walking Dead Season 1.  Before I come to my final verdict I have to make a few provisos for anybody who hasn't seen it yet.  If you have never read any of the comics or trade paperbacks you will love this show.  If you have read Robert Kirkman's original source material then you will either love it or hate it with a white hot fiery hate.

The uninatiated will love the walking dead because it is simply great television.  It is human drama and character driven narrative at its (almost) finest.  Add to the fact that it is packaged in the context of zombie folklore with amazing zombie make-up and some crazy-ass murder death killing for the kids, and you have a great, immersive experience.  To fans of the original comic series, AMC's The Walking Dead will either be A) An adaptation that stays faithful to the tone and intent of the original comic series and a really amazing on-screen interpretation of the characters you have been following the lives of for so long or B) A travesty of an adaptation that strays from the original in unforgivable ways and that should be cancelled immediately and whose creators should be castrated and fed to mutant sharks while their loved ones watch the feeding frenzy.

As for me, I fucking loved the first season of The Walking Dead.  There has been such a drought of great zombie movies in recent years (with the notable exceptions of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIELAND) and luckily like a porn star dying of thirst and suddenly finding herself in a roomful of ripe, juicy cocks I would get a good drink to sate my thirst.  I know that The Walking Dead is a TV show and not a movie, but with such a high production value, solid writing, and grade-A acting, I think you'd have to be an unamitated corpse not to enjoy it and not to see that it is far superior than most Hollywood grade zombie flicks.  If anything the show is actually an improvement on the comic books, and rest assured it does not peak in the first episode.  I think if you are a zombie movie fan and don't have a giant stick up your ass (Robert Kirkman himself was heavily involved with the small screen adaptation) then you'll love the hell out of this show.  And if you're a fan of the original comic series, then I personally can't see how you couldn't love this.  There are iconic scenes and locations from the original comic that are so painstakingly and lovingly recreated it feels as if the producers did everything short of sucking the dicks of existing fans to ensure a smooth transition from the page to the screen.  And the stories they did add and the changes they did make were -in my mind- absolutely correct.  One major thing die hard fans might notice is the elongation of the subplot involving Rick, his best friend Shane and Rick's wife Lori who thought Rick was dead and fled with Shane.  Even without saying anything you can pretty much surmise that there is a love triangle.  What you might not surmise is that in the comics this is dealt with pretty early on (with Shane's timely death.  SPOILER ALERT) and in the show this subplot is wisely expanded.

The calibre of the acting is top notch.  The main character Rick Grimes is portrayed by Andrew Lincoln, who I never really considered before, but in The Walking Dead he reminds me of a young(er) Vigo Mortenson.  The dude is absolutely fantastic in this show, and should definitely be nominated for one of those awards at those meaningless awards shows where celebrities pat each other on the back and hosts who are actually funny and insightful are derided by morons for being mean-spirited and inappropriate, when really Ricky Gervais should be given a fucking medal for his hosting skills.  Motherfuckers.  The rest of the cast is great too, though the only others I really recognized were Laurie Holden and Jeffrey DeMunn who play Andrea and Dale respectively from the comic book.  A few other actors you might recognize who lent their star power to this endeavour are Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker who portray brothers who weren't in the comics.  They are worth noting because you might recognize these dudes, and they do a great job.

The other thing to note is how uncannily well-matched the main cast is to their comic counterparts.  Andrew Lincoln is pretty near a dead ringer for Frank Grimes, but the really uncanny match is Steven Yeun who is the living incarnation of Glen from the comics.  Seeing him on the screen made me jump out of my seat to go and grab one of my Walking Dead books to hold against the screen to compare them.

Bottom line, The Walking Dead Season 1 is a must have for anybody who A) Loves good TV or B) Loves zombie cinema.  If I had any knowledge of computers beyond word processing, now would be the time where I would display my hilarious Venn diagram to illustrate my point.  It is a complex tale about what it means to be human.  It's about the shifting perception of right and wrong and what happens when those preconceived notions are put to the test.  It's about the lengths people will go through to survive despite having no real reason to go on except for the dim hope that humanity might have a future.  It's about the emotional consequences of fucking your best friend's wife thinking he was dead after you left him in the hospital during a zombie uprising.  Plus, there's some pretty fucking cool zombie eatings.  The Walking Dead is a must have DVD/BluRay and and one of the easiest 9/10's I've ever given.